From the Barn to the B's
BostonBruins.com — It's always a little jarring to see Gregory Campbell off of the ice.
The ever-trendy fashion fan, often bedecked in a new suit (or jeans or what have you) is in stark contrast to the game-faced Merlot line-leading center known best for his tenacity, his pugilistic leanings, and general disdain for his opponents.
I think that's exactly why his family's farm in Tillsonburg, Ontario — and it's ubiquitous red barn — remains one of my all-time favorite BostonBruins.com stops.
Never mind that when you step into the setting it’s as if you've entered a folk painting. Never mind that the inside of the edifice reminds me of the movie “Youngblood.“ The Campbell farm and everything in and around the grounds make you understand the fire that drives the B's forward and lends keen insight into how Gregory maintains his understanding and role on the Boston Bruins.
"I would just spend hours and hours, and it’s funny because you think I’d have a better shot spending hours in here taking shots," joked Campbell when we visited him in August.
"I just set that net up…and just spend hours in the summer shooting here."
Honestly, for anyone who ever dreamed of making a professional roster and improvised their own workouts in their basement, back lot or living room, to see where it started so simply for Campbell was comforting and helped me feel less futile as I recalled my own ramshackle routines in my parents backyard, garage, and cellar.
However, that's where any similarities between Campbell and the rest of us cease.
"There’s a hill behind my house over there where I did a lot of 'hills' on," said Gregory of the daunting 45-degree grade grassy gully he said used to repeatedly run/scale for cardio training. "I’d kind of make up workouts on my own at an early age and do those workouts.
"There was kind of no rhyme or reason to these workouts but I would kind of just use the facilities that I had, and do a lot of the stuff outside, so I guess it’s a little bit unique, but it was what I had, and I enjoyed it," explained Campbell. "It was different, it wasn’t necessarily going to the gym every day and pumping iron and doing the routine stuff, but it was kind of how I got started."
Campbell allowed that he had a good role model in his father Colin, who played over 600 NHL as a defenseman in the NHL, later coached the New York Rangers (and who currently holds the title of Director of Hockey Operations for the NHL), but also insisted that it was his own desire to make the NHL, which fueled his fire.
"It was never really intimidating for me as far as feeling like I was pressured to make the NHL," said the younger Campbell. "[His career] was something I enjoyed, but I never felt pressured to go to the rink, it was something I did on my own will, and both my parents were amazing in that aspect."
And Gregory greatly appreciated that unconditional support.
"They knew I loved doing it; they supported me in whatever road I would have chosen," he said. "If I would have just wanted to go to school and gone into a different field that would have been fine with them.
"So, I was lucky to have a lot of the experiences that I did, but on the flip-side of that, personally, it might have fueled me to want to get to that level, and to have those experiences myself.
"But it was my dream that I was chasing, and not my dad’s or anyone else’s," he said.
In the Campbell barn there's also a blackboard where that dream-filled boy practiced his autograph and a smiling Gregory enjoyed talking about simpler times.
"This is cheesy but, I did [enjoy] movies like “Rocky” and things like that, where things were done in kind of an old school way," said Campbell. "I enjoy coming back here.
"The simplicity of it for me is most unique — and it’s a different atmosphere than I’m used to all the time — so it definitely has a special place for me."